Simon Brault of the Canada Council for the Arts redefines the cultural community

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What does a 21st century cultural metropolis look like anyway?


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This was one of the questions posed to Simon Brault, CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, who was in town this week to meet with artists and arts organizations to share some of the changes taking place within the organization. and to talk about the challenges she faces in keeping up with the creative spirit of the 21st century.

Montreal? Berlin? Barcelona?

New York? London? Toronto?

Would you believe Hamilton?

“I was in Hamilton for the Junos,” he says, “and I was very surprised to see the number of artists come together there (to live). “

Former Steeltown has undergone a transformation in recent years as artists – drawn to its affordable studio space and easy access to Toronto – have moved there, along with various high-profile authors such as Lawrence Hill.


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This migration of artists – who exist on the economic fringes of a city – is exactly what creates the artistic DNA that a creative city needs, says Brault.

“The underground scene is something very precious for a cultural metropolis,” says Brault. “You have to attract people. You have to have a very high level of circulation (of artists).

Brault says that’s why it’s so exciting to see a number of new art spaces, like the National Music Center, being built in Calgary.

“If Calgary is able to present it (the National Music Center) as a real hub,” he says, “where artists can come to have exceptional creation – it can create that (a kind of cultural metropolis environment ).

“It’s a matter of (civic) attitude,” he says, “to provide opportunities, and I think from that perspective, a city like Calgary is well placed with the mayor you have, mind – there is an acceptance that (arts and culture) is an important asset.


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Brault is reorganizing the Canada Council for the Arts, an independent federal Crown corporation that promotes and promotes the arts, to make it simpler and more accessible for a new generation of artists and arts organizations. Canadian.

While Canadian culture has been largely untouched by the devastating cuts to arts funding that hit countries around the world in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis – 36% in Britain, even more in Spain, big cuts in Australia – there’s always a need to reimagine the organization, he says. .

With nearly 150 different program streams, the council spends too much time debating an artist or arts organization’s eligibility for a particular funding stream and too little time rationalizing access to its resources – somehow. something that has been going on for years, and at the highest levels of artistic production, he says.


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Storytelling in the 21st century has become a mixture of disciplines, and to remain relevant, the Canada Council for the Arts must evolve its funding structures, he says.

“I worked for 32 years in a theater school (the National Theater School of Montreal),” he says, “and I began to realize 15 years ago that it was clear that the generation current is not and does not want to have linear storytelling. fashion.

“Everything is changing dramatically right now,” he said. “And it’s deeper than just programming (by artistic directors on major stages across Canada).

“It’s not just about adjusting the offer now,” he says. “It’s more about really understanding… totally questioning all the (funding) models that we have. “

The way we tell stories, ”he says. “It’s not obsolete, but needs to be adjusted.”


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As an example, he cites no less a case study than that of the legendary Robert Lepage as an artist that no one at the Canada Council for the Arts could agree on the definition of.

“I remember being on juries,” he said, “where people argued endlessly: it’s not theater! Because it’s not text-based – and it was kinda nowhere (in terms of council support).

“It took him years to establish himself as a stage artist,” he says, “then he moved on to opera! And then to the cinema and all that.

Brault says it’s imperative the board catches up with the new wave of multimedia, interdisciplinary arts and arts groups before they miss the next Robert Lepage.

“The way forward is to go back to very few programs,” he says. “Non-disciplinary programs, more focused on clear objectives and clear expected results.

“An artist entering the Canada Council for the Arts system would have to fill out some sort of profile on the Internet,” he says, “and should immediately see on their screens, what programs are available (for me)? And what activities are accessible (for me or my organization)? No discussion.

“Once it’s validated,” he says, “(that) you’re a writer, you’ve published so many books, that’s all. We want to put this in place, because we know that if we don’t, the Canada Council for the Arts will become less and less relevant.

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